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Brief Analysis of Poem 'Caged Bird' By Maya Angelou

Updated on November 22, 2017

Analysis of 'Caged Bird' Poem by Maya Angelou

Poetry written by Maya Angelou draws on themes of freedom, oppression and hope. Angelou lived during a time of racial prejudice and discrimination against the African Americans. Being an African-American herself, perhaps her poem ‘Caged Bird’ was influenced by her personal experience. In this poem , an extended metaphor is used to compare the lives of two birds; one free and one enslaved.

Even the title “Caged Bird” gives off a sense of containment and constriction. Angelou uses juxtaposition to compare the lives of these birds. She speaks of the caged bird who `“stalks down his narrow cage” while the “free bird leaps on the back of the wind”. The free bird represents the white African American population, while the caged bird represents the life of the segregated African Americans. The poem though, has a universal meaning so it can also be expanded to relate to any situation where one group is oppressed and one is free.

The structure of the poem itself is broken, sounds much like a slave song, and suggests disruption and problems below the surface. The poet talks about the “caged bird” whose “wings are clipped… (and) feet are tied” using a metaphor to refer to the cuffs that tied slaves together in America. Angelou describes a caged bird who is deprived of “flight”, “fat worms” and “sunlight” and can only express himself by “(opening) his throat to sing”. Conversely, the free bird is almost portrayed to be greedy as he is already free, something the caged bird can only dream of being, yet he still “thinks of another breeze” and “names the sky his own”.

The caged bird and the free bird are used as a symbol of freedom due to their ability of flight. Angelou also utilizes personification within her poems as the free bird ‘s environment Is that of ‘sighing trees’ while the caged bird’s “shadow shouts”. This also highlights the use of juxtaposition in this poem. Angelou writes, towards the end of the poem, that the caged bird “stands on the grave of dreams” displaying the use of metaphor in her text.

The poem ends on a positive note as the caged bird’s song is still “heard on a distant hill”. Perhaps the poet is trying to show that the caged bird still has hope because his “tune is heard”. And so as long as the “caged bird sings” there is still hope.


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